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Warring madness, or a sad anniversary

Friday 3 March 2023 | Written by Supplied | Published in Church Talk, Features


Warring madness, or a sad anniversary
A Ukrainian soldier carries a baby across a destroyed bridge in Irpin on March 3. Timothy Fadek/Redux for CNN/ 23030210

The Ukrainians and the Russians are not the only people being hurt by this war. Possibly there are two impacts of the war that we have felt in the Cook Islands, writes Bishop Paul Donoghue of the Catholic Church.

Last week marked one year since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022. A year ago in the Cathedral in Avarua at the outbreak of the war, we held an ecumenical evening of prayer. We prayed for a quick peaceful outcome between Russia and Ukraine. The evening was more than the coming together of people wanting to pray for peace. A number of people came because they had some connection with one or other of these countries. They had lived in one of the countries at some time or worked there. I write on this topic believing it is serious enough that we should be still conscious that peace has not been achieved between Russia and Ukraine. 

The situation challenges us to be persistent in our prayer. Too many of us give up praying thinking we have only to ask once. Yet scripture tells us to “Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.” James 5:16. We can see by watching the news over the last week, that the two leaders, President Putin and President Zelensky are as determined as ever to continue the war. Both leaders during the week appealed on public television to major countries in the world such as China and America to come to their respective aid to continue the war in order to achieve a final victory.

Scripture Matthew 2: 18.

I use now a scripture text, which I admit I have never used before. In my church we use it on December 28th as it is connected to the Christmas story. 

“When Herod realised that he had been deceived by the magi, he became furious.
He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity, two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi. Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet:

A voice was heard in Ramah,
sobbing and loud lamentation;
Rachel weeping for her children,
and she would not be consoled,
since they were no more. (Matthew 2:18)

Many of us avoid this text as it does not sit comfortably with our version of the birth of our saviour Jesus Christ in the world – the Christ, who is announced as the Prince of Peace. Christmas for most of us, is Jesus laying in the manger, surrounded by his parents, shepherds, a choir of angels and some admiring animals. We certainly don’t want to introduce the soldiers of Herod, swords, blood and death into the daily life of Joseph and Mary. Soldiers do not belong to the maternity ward but to the battlefield!

This text brings home to me that the Russian/Ukraine war is not being fought on a battlefield as in a jungle in Vietnam or in some remote desert. The war of Ukraine and Russia takes place every day in places where people live, work and worship and go to school or are in hospitals, where people give birth to their children. The war is in the streets and in the homes of the people of Ukraine. We see this in the news film clips just about every day. It is not just soldiers dying on the battlefields.  Too many of the elderly, too many children, too many babies, are dying as a consequence of this war.

Worldwide impact of this war

The Ukrainians and the Russians are not the only people being hurt by this war. Possibly there are two impacts of the war that we have felt in the Cook Islands. Firstly we frequently hear that the increase in the price of fuel is attributed to this war. Secondly it has contributed to the slowdown in freight reaching its destination on time. 

Have you ever thought about just how much money the United States of America spends on its military budget each year? I googled the question and came up with the answer of US$800 billion and it is going up not down. Imagine if this military spending was directed to desperately needed social programmes in the world. Instead of the money being used to kill and maim people it could be used to feed the starving; it might reach those millions of children living in poverty who go to sleep hungry. It could provide them with adequate housing. It could provide a reasonable healthcare for many. Instead of making more sophisticated military weapons especially those of a nuclear capability which is used as a threat to destroy part of the planet, such money could be used to turn the tide on climate change. We could seriously address restoring our common home, the earth, to its former glory and beauty. “God looked at everything he had made, and found it very good. Evening came, and morning followed – the sixth day: Genesis 1:31. If God were to look at our world today in 2023 would God proclaim it good?

Just about every night on the television news we are confronted with people reduced to tears. People in war torn Ukraine crying over the destruction inflicted on their towns or crying over the toll of the dead, the wounded, the refugees and displaced persons. The destruction, and economic and social damage speak for itself. Then there are people in Syria and Turkey crying over the deaths and destruction after the recent earthquake that affected them. There are people in various parts of New Zealand such as Northland, Coromandel, Gisborne and Hawkes Bay crying over the loss of their houses and livelihoods as the result of Cyclone Gabrielle.

What can we do about this war in the Cook Islands?

  1. Ask yourself: “Have I become hardened to calamities in the world because I have been exposed to so many that I can now ignore them since they no longer affect me? Do I just rejoice that  God has blessed the Cook Islands and I don’t have to be concerned about those facing calamities in other parts of the world?”
  1. The Cook Islands has an active RSA (Returned Servicemen Association) in the country and we have a good turnout of the public on ANZAC Day and Armistice day. I connect to this the work that has been done on the discovering and restoring of the graves of former military personnel. From time to time the history of these men is published and often you will find mentioned that there is no glory in war. These people fought and some gave their lives in order that future generations could live in peace without war. They expressed the wish that their war would end all wars.

What we should be praying for right now is a ceasefire in Ukraine. We need a ceasefire to interrupt this warring madness. Hopefully a ceasefire would have the impact of stopping the massive killing on both sides. A ceasefire, for as long as it holds, means that no one is being killed on either side by war. And then, just maybe, the difficult work of beginning serious negotiations can go forward.

  1. Many will be asking: “How can a loving God permit war that brings about death, destruction and waste?” Two months ago at Christmas we confidently welcomed the Prince of Peace into our lives and we cannot give up hope. We praise this God, even in the midst of warring madness. Surely we have to stop listening to the voices of the Presidents of this world, even the United Nations and start listening to the Holy Spirit. President Putin and Zelensky don’t say “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Those words belong to Jesus Christ and it is His way that we must follow if we want a peaceful world. Why is it we are still making the error of Cain and Abel, with brother killing brother? (Genesis 4:8)